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Seagates and Katrina

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The Wash Times interviews Eco-Freaks author (and occasional Reason contributor) John Berlau about various aspects of the environmental movement. A snippet:

Q: How did environmentalists contribute to the disaster in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina?

A: They blocked the building of large steel and concrete floodgates around Lake Pontchartrain that the Corps of Engineers, the … state congressional delegation, and the New Orleans levee board had all endorsed as being able to provide the best protection against storm surge from hurricanes.    

The gates were similar to the folding "seagates" that were being built, and now have been built, in the Netherlands that only close during North Sea storms. Like those, these gates would have only closed during severe storms—blocking water from getting into Lake Pontchartrain and flooding New Orleans. Renowned hurricane experts say these gates would have likely prevented most of Katrina's devastation in New Orleans. But the Environmental Defense Fund (now Environmental Defense) and the Louisiana group Save Our Wetlands persuaded a federal judge to halt the gates in 1977 because of the alleged damage they could do to fish, even though the project had already been granted a thumbs-up in a review from the Environmental Protection Agency.

More here.

Berlau on Sarbanes-Oxley vs. a free press and more here.

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  1. Environmentalist policy proves harmful to environment.

    In other news, tide rises then recedes.

  2. I was wondering why we weren’t going to the Dutch for advice on this one. I’d thought it was because that kind of sea-defenses was prohibitively expensive for a country where it’s not a matter of countrywide survival.

    Silly me.

  3. “And, by effectively banning the family-size station wagon with fuel economy standards and trying to greatly downsize SUVs, environmentalists’ policies are achieving their goals of creating more difficulties for large families.”

    i don’t want to say this is stupid, but, well, i don’t have any other word for it.

  4. Shocked! To discover reason contributors continuing to flog the “DDT was banned! Can’t be used in Africa! That’s killing millions!” meme after it’s been discredited billions of times. Shocked, I say!

  5. C’mon, dhex, when has an envirormental writer from the Competitive Enterprise Institute ever steered you wrong by casting false aspersions on environmentalists?

    (This argument would be a lot less effective, if it weren’t so reliably on-target).

  6. It is not NIMBY anymore it is BANANA. “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything”. It is just stupid. Wether it be logging to lower the risk of forest fires, seagates to protect New Orleans, Nuclear Power to lower CO2 emissions, or property rights to give people an incentive to have endangered species habitat on their land, you can’t have a rational conversation about the environment anymore. Once someone shows up and says “stop this project to protect our environment” the debate ends and the madness begins.

  7. “C’mon, dhex, when has an envirormental writer from the Competitive Enterprise Institute ever steered you wrong by casting false aspersions on environmentalists?”

    And no environmentalist ever tried to stop a project out of a knee jerk reaction against building anything.

  8. You do know that the “healty forest initiative” to allegedly thin out dead trees in national forests allowed the harvesting of the large, mature trees that shade the forest floor and prevent fire-fueling brush from growing, right?

  9. John, I’ve come up against that problem more times than you can imagine. People who’d just as soon pour out their unused paint in a brook suddenly discover they were a speckled trout in a past life as soon as someone proposes to build some houses near their homes.

    Some of us work to differentiate between legitimate environmentalist concerns and bogus, self-interested activism. Others work to blur that line.

  10. Just curious – how did they “block” the gates when it appears all the “powers that be” were in favor? Does the legal system provide some
    magic bullet that the enviros use that maybe
    libertarians can use to block programs that we believe are unconstitutional, unwise, or harmful to taxpayers? Like stopping a $1 billion new stadium in the Meadowlands. Can’t we be proactive instead of reactive all the time?

  11. i’m not saying that many of the more vocal anti-humanist types in the environmentalist movement spotlight don’t scare the shit out of me or anything, it’s just that fighting SUV’s to “attack families” is utterly retarded as an explanation when there’s an obvious flashpoint meme-war about oil and fuel in the united states. it’s so obvious that it’s absurd to put it out there as anything vaguely approaching fact.

  12. “I imagine he [Limbaugh] would say some things that were very profound….”

    This imposes a serioud restriction on my faith in Berlau’s analytical skills.

  13. Dude’s hanging his hat on something the enviros may have done in 1977? It’s like blaming the Ramones for Kevin Federline.

  14. “serious” that should be…

    stupid keyboard

  15. Seems that environmentalists suggested correctly that restoration of the wetlands that protected NO was an effective approach. Who blocked that action?

    http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/wetlands/hurricane_print.html
    From 2002

  16. Ah yes…eco-freaks is what we’re calling them now. Not that we’re painting environmental causes with a broad brush or anything.

    Obviously a parent wanting clean air and drinking water for their kids is just an irrational hippy who can’t be reasoned with.

    Come on and get off this stupid crap. I expect more reasonable arguments from a publication called Reason.

    How about some of the false scorn heaped on environmentalist by Berlau. Berlau dishonestly fails to mention that environmentalist didn’t reject the plan out of hand…only the Corp of Engineers approach. And they actually joined forces in 1990 under the “Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act,” introduced by Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) in 1990, and passed that year.

    The problem wasn’t environmentalist opposition but funding. To get funding, the seagate project was waiting on feasability studies from the Corp of Engineers.

    Bush, prior to Katrina, had cut funding for flood control studies since he got into office and the studies had not been able to get beyond the elemental phase.

    On the whole, a flat dishonest (if not outright lie of a piece). But then what do you expect from moonies?

  17. -de sijl

    Dude’s hanging his hat on something the enviros may have done in 1977? It’s like blaming the Ramones for Kevin Federline.

    I don’t know, did you ever hear Dee Dee’s rap album?

  18. Mmmm…. Speckled trout.

  19. Would the gates have harmed the fish? How badly?

    I can dig that we may have to weigh contingent damage to fish against aquatic damage to buildings in New Orleans. I could even see myself siding with the fish, depending on the probabilities and costs and benefits.

    I think when we have to talk about Katrina, though, it should be borne in mind that the dead people are the fault of the absent national and state militias, and not the fault of the fish. Those black people could have been evacuated and it is not right to blame the fish for their deaths.

  20. “I think when we have to talk about Katrina, though, it should be borne in mind that the dead people are the fault of the absent national and state militias, and not the fault of the fish. Those black people could have been evacuated and it is not right to blame the fish for their deaths.”

    That is not true. Hundred of thousands of people were evacuated. Further, there were safe, dry places in the city to go. Some people just would not leave. They did a study of the dead after Katrina and found out that those who died were actually more white and wealthier than the average. People had days to leave and could have left but chose not to. Short of sending in the National Guard and forcing people from their homes, I am not sure what could have been done to get them out of their homes. Further, I don’t think anyone here would have supported force evacuation. Was the evacuation perfect? No. Did things suck? Yes. But, there was no reason to be below sea level when Katrina hit. The people that were, were there because they chose to be there.

  21. even though the project had already been granted a thumbs-up in a review from the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Wait, we’re supposed to accept government findings at face value now? Dammit, somebody needed to send out a memo.

  22. “I expect more reasonable arguments from a publication called Reason.”

    DRINK!

  23. The interview is in the Moonie Times, and the guy’s book is titled “Eco-Freaks.”

    Shocked, shocked am I that his arguments would turn out to be dishonest.

  24. You do know that the “healty forest initiative” to allegedly thin out dead trees in national forests allowed the harvesting of the large, mature trees that shade the forest floor and prevent fire-fueling brush from growing, right?

    I don’t know… they do the same thing in Algonquin Park in Canada, and it works really well. Cutting down a certain number of trees keeps the forest very healthy… but that doesn’t stop the knee jerk enviornmentalists from screaming “THEY ARE LOGGING OUR NATIONAL PARKS!!!”.

    Obviously a parent wanting clean air and drinking water for their kids is just an irrational hippy who can’t be reasoned with.

    When something has absolutly no effect on clean air and drinking water, then they *ARE* an irrational hippy who can’t be reasoned with. The fact that you mentioned “their kids” just reeks of “think of the children” insanity. You invoke the children when you don’t want to bother with reason and common sense.

  25. You do know that the “healty forest initiative” to allegedly thin out dead trees in national forests allowed the harvesting of the large, mature trees that shade the forest floor and prevent fire-fueling brush from growing, right?

    I recently visited a mature (protected) cedar forest. It was really very strange. Widely spaced hundred foot tall trees with absolutely no immature or otherwise young trees. There were no animals. There wasn’t any forage. Just dirt and some pine needles. At that size the trees aren’t very useful. The equipment to harvest them doesn’t exist and the quality is poor anyway. So, if you think these kinds of stands have some inherent value I suppose the initiative is repugnant. But if you think our forest should, in any way, be managed for the benefit of wood harvest then it is a perfectly reasonable thing to clear these old trees.

  26. pigwiggle,

    I did a lot of work involving endnagered species in Texas. We had two endangered songbirds. One loves mature oak trees to nest the other loved brush. The only way to get habitat for the second was to burn down the habitat for the first. The environment is never a static system. We don’t want all old growth anymore than we want all new growth. Further, there were millions of native Americans who lived in this country for 1000s of years who adapted the environment to their uses. There never was a pristine pre-settlement environment. People too often forget those two facts when talking about the environment.

  27. Even if the floodgates were built, that still doesn’t stop New Orleans from sinking further below sea level and making it susceptible to flooding. I would imagine some eco-freaks could at least grasp the concept of “why are we subsidizing the building of dense residential tracts in such a flood-prone area?”

  28. Rex,

    I agree with both of your points – forests need to be managed, and a lot of greenies don’t seem to get that.

    My point is that you shouldn’t assume that the “Healthy Forest Initiative” respresents responisble management just because environmentalists are against it. Taking the trees that are most profitable to timber interets actually serves to make the forests more vulnerable to fire, by encouraging the growth of brush. On the other hand, the trees that are most important to be removed – the dead ones, and the immature brushy ones – aren’t desirec by logging interests at all.

    It isn’t just about “a certain number of treets,” but the right trees.

    John’s 1:02 post is very good.

  29. Not only do environmentalists get that argument, Russ2000, they are often the ones making it.

  30. Taking the trees that are most profitable to timber interets actually serves to make the forests more vulnerable to fire, by encouraging the growth of brush.

    I think you misunderstand why the thinning of larger trees is profitable. They don’t want the trees for lumber, rather they are inhibiting the growth of the smaller fast growing trees timber companies need. There are very few mills that can actually mill the larger dimension logs. My father-in-law owns a lumber mill that is quite old. He gets a very good deal on these kinds of logs because modern mills are incapable of milling them.

  31. Dangit, joe, Shocked, Shocked _I_ am!

    More on DDT lies, reported as truth by the Magazine That Can’t Hate The Environment Enough:

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/01/washington_times_spreads_ddt_b.php#more

  32. Why should we be shocked that Berlau continues to peddle this lie? It’s how people like him make a living.

    In 2005, the Government Accountability Office reported to Congress:
    “None of the changes made to the project, however, are believed to have had any role in the levee breaches recently experienced as the alternative design selected was expected to provide the same level of protection. In fact, Corps officials believe that flooding would have been worse if the original proposed design had been built.”
    http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d051050t.pdf

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